Asian markets mixed ahead of Bernanke speech

Danny McCord
Businessmen walk past a share price display board in Tokyo earlier this month. Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with attention turning to a speech by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke later in the week as dealers look for an indication of any stimulus by the central bank

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with attention turning to a speech by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke later in the week as dealers look for an indication of any stimulus by the central bank.

The euro eased against the yen and dollar after rising late Tuesday following successful bond auctions in Spain and Italy and on expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) will restart a bond-buying programme.

Tokyo gained 0.40 percent, or 36.52 points, to end at 9,069.81 and Seoul added 0.64 percent, or 12.21 points, to 1,928.54. Sydney closed flat, edging down 0.07 percent, or 2.98 points, to 4,356.4 points.

Hong Kong fell 0.12 percent, or 23.29 points, to 19,788.51 and Shanghai eased 0.96 percent, or 19.91 points, to 2,053.24, its lowest since February 2009.

Bernanke is due to address central bankers at an annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, with investors hoping he will outline plans for further measures to boost the world's number one economy.

"Players remain in wait-and-see mode leading up to the Jackson Hole summit where more hints on information about the direction of monetary policy are expected," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Global markets enjoyed an impressive rally in August on hopes for fresh Fed stimulus and bond-buying by the ECB, while Chinese leaders are also expected to loosen monetary policy to kickstart the Asian giant.

On forex markets the euro bought $1.2541 and 98.52 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with $1.2565 and 98.68 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The single currency was given some support by news that ECB head Mario Draghi would not attend Jackson Hole, which stoked speculation a new round of bond buying was near.

The dollar was at 78.50 yen against 78.49 yen.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead after mixed economic data.

The Conference Board reported its US consumer confidence index dropped to a nine-month low of 60.6 for August, down from 65.9 in July.

The report showed lower confidence over business and job prospects.

Before the opening bell, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index of 20 cities showed prices rose for the fifth straight month in June, by 1.0 percent.

The Dow fell 0.17 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.08 percent while the tech-rich Nasdaq rose 0.13 percent.

On Tokyo's Nikkei index shares in troubled microchip maker Renesas closed up 35.08 percent at 308 yen after media reports that a US investment fund plans to spend $1.3 billion to take control of it.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) reportedly hopes to reach a formal agreement with the firm's top three Japanese stakeholders -- NEC, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric -- as early as September.

The investment of 100 billion yen would dwarf Renesas's market capitalisation of about 95 billion yen as of Tuesday.

Oil eased, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for October delivery, shedding 83 cents to $95.50 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in the same month slipping 66 cents to $111.92.

Gold was at $1,665.05 at 1050 GMT compared to $1,661.90 on Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.40 percent, or 29.21 points, to 7,391.15.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.36 percent higher at Tw$82.7 while leading smartphone maker HTC gained 2.01 percent at Tw$253.5.

-- Manila closed 0.39 percent higher, adding 20.10 points to 5,195.72.

Metropolitan Bank and Trust rose 1.39 percent to 94.85 pesos and SM Prime Holdings added 0.29 percent to 13.80 pesos.

-- Wellington closed flat, edging down 0.66 points to 3,628.39.

Telecom was down 0.2 percent at NZ$2.43 and Air New Zealand was flat at NZ$0.90.

-- Bangkok fell 1.05 percent, or 13.00 points, to 1,220.16.

Energy firm Banpu gained 0.45 percent to 446.00 baht, while energy giant PTT lost 0.30 percent to 333.00 baht.

-- Kuala Lumpur stocks were flat, losing 0.09 percent, or 1.53 points, to close at 1,645.58.

Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd fell 1.4 percent to 23.24 ringgit while PPB Group Bhd was down 0.7 percent to 13.98 ringgit.

-- Singapore was flat, closing up 0.05 percent, or 1.50 points, at 3,041.57.

Olam International fell 2.01 percent to Sg$1.95 while DBS Group added 0.83 percent to Sg$14.62.

-- Jakarta closed 1.20 percent, or 49.68 points, lower at 4,093.17.

Mining company Aneka Tambang fell 1.57 percent to 1,250 rupiah, Astra International fell 2.10 percent to 7,000 rupiah, while Indocement slid 3.12 percent to 20,200 rupiah.

-- Mumbai fell 0.80 percent, or 140.90 points, to 17,490.81.

Sterlite Industries, the local arm of global resources group Vedanta, fell 4.69 percent to 99.6 rupees while leading motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto slid 3.96 percent to 1,627.25 rupees.